Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris on 21 June 1905. His father died a little over a year later.
Sartre was born a Protestant at a time when France was largely Catholic. Even as a child Sartre felt like an outsider. He was bright academically and studied at the renowned lycee Henry IV and then the lycee Louis le Grand. Afterwards he joined the Ecole Normale Superieure, the ideal and most famous school French institute for the study of philosophy and literature. In 1929 at the Sorbonne Jean-Paul Sartre met Simone de Beauvoir, they were in the same class. Simone de Beauvoir would be his life partner. Other famous philosophers who Sartre studied with included Raymond Aron and Paul Nizen.
Sartre published La Nausee, Nausea, in 1939. It was his
first novel and it was a success. It documented the main character
Roquentins realisation that everything exists without reason. In the same year Jean-Paul Sartre was
drafted in the French army. He did not fight on the front line, he
was a meteorologist for the army, but in 1940 he was still taken as a
prisoner of war by the German army. After the war Sartre was a
Sartre produced his most famous and influential
philosophical work, 'Being and Nothingness', in 1943. Sartre was
arguing that humans are eternally free but so long as we are
conscious of the fact, we can never truly be anything. We are
constantly simultaneously aware of the possibility to be something
else. Jean-Paul Sartre was arguing that we never actually are
anything. His work was very similar to that of the German
philosopher Martin Heidegger.
In 1945, Sartre was released from his
position as a teacher. The French government had granted him leave,
he was now a full -time writer. Following this, in 1946, Sartre gave
one of his most famous lectures, 'Existentialism is a Humanism'.
Jean-Paul Sartre was trying to find a basis for morality in his
philosophy. During this period Sartre was developing his idea of 'Bad
Faith'. The idea, essentially, that we lie to ourselves and thus deny
our own freedom. During this time Jean-Paul Sartre forged a close
friendship with fellow philosopher Albert Camus. He was also now the
editor of the review magazine Les Temps Modernes, The Modern Times.
During the early 1950's Sartre became far more politically involved
and frequently announced his support for the socialist movement. In
1956, however, Sartre abandoned his connection with the Marxist
political party. He was disheartened with some of its choices. In
1961 and 1962 Sartre's apartment was bombed twice. Jean-Paul Sartre
had advocated independence for Algeria and angered those who
maintained that Algeria should remain part of France. Sartre was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 but he refused it on
the grounds that it was a recognition of his talent by the
establishment. Jean-Paul Sartre had spent much of his life fighting
the establishment, he did not want his achievements to be recognised
Sartre was involved with the student riots in Paris in 1968. Dismayed at the failure of the student movement Jean-Paul Sartre began advocating far more violent methods of rebellion. In 1970 Jean-Paul Sartre and his partner, Simone de Beauvoir, were arrested for selling a banned newspaper. President Charles de Gaulle insisted that Sartre was to be released immediately, commenting that ''you do not arrest Voltaire''. Jean-Paul Sartre died in hospital on the 15th April 1980.